Director Monika Mitchell changes tack after making a string of awful Hallmark Christmas movies to take on a murder mystery starring Alyssa Milano (Insatiable) – but set it in a small town and stick a prince in it and it’s basically still the same thing.
Updating Nora Roberts’ bestselling romance novel for the Mumsnet crowd who found Fifty Shades too shocking, Brazen casts Milano as a bestselling crime author who starts investigating her sister’s BDSM past after she finds her strangled to death. Sister Kathleen (Emilie Ullerup, another Hallmark Channel graduate) is a high school teacher with far too much backstory to stay alive in a film like this. She’s an ex-addict who’s blackmailing her ex for skimming the family trust fund, who also happens to be a cam girl with a secret sex dungeon.
Grace (Milano) comes to visit Kathleen and instantly falls for the hunky police detective/amateur carpenter, Ed, who happens to live next door (Sam Page, from House Of Cards and Gossip Girl), right before she comes back home to a grisly crime scene. Someone has murdered Kathleen and the suspects stack up fast: there’s the angry ex with the high-end legal connections, the mysterious perv who mouth-breathes over all the porn tapes, the suspicious boss running the sex cam agency, the weird rich kid Kathleen was teaching at school and the creepy janitor who stands around in the background holding up a big “red herring” card.
Weirdly, Grace’s first thought after cleaning her sister’s blood off her clothes is to ask if she can sleep over at Ed’s house (because there’s never an inappropriate time for a bit of soft-core shirt-lifting), and she starts helping him solve the case with her crack crime-fiction skills.
“But why is the killer targeting dominatrixes?” Asks a baffled police chief, studying a wall of evidence after more cam-girl murders start cropping up. “Well…” says Grace, standing up in a hushed roomful of trained detectives, “something I was thinking… maybe it’s all about control…” Everyone looks dazzled by her insight, and the chief gladly hands her all the case files so she can take over instead.
What starts off as a perfectly fine potboiler turns sour fast as the twists and turns of the case get more ridiculous – not helped by all the terrible dialogue and awful acting that makes every key dramatic scene seem slightly hilarious (one reaction shot of a guy watching a webcam that suddenly turns into a murder scene is surely destined to be a GIF). Milano and Page do an okay job of keeping things credible, but they’re given a free pass by the rest of the cast who are bad enough to make them look good.
If you can read a signpost you’ll have worked out who the killer is a long time before the big reveal, which is great if you just want to sit back and watch how silly the finale gets without worrying about following the plot. If only Mitchell had set Brazen at Christmas, she could have had a cult classic on her hands…
- Director: Monika Mitchell
- Starring: Alyssa Milano, Sam Page, Emilie Ullerup
- Release date: January 13 (Netflix)